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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 391:107-115 (2009)  -  DOI:

Consequences of ecological connectivity: the coastal ecosystem mosaic

Marcus Sheaves

School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia, 4811

ABSTRACT: Connectivity links habitats in space and time. It is a key process that facilitates many life-history functions of myriad species in a variety of contexts over a wide range of scales. Perhaps its most obvious application is to the multifaceted linkages among the diverse habitat units comprising ecosystem complexes like the coastal ecosystem mosaic (CEM)—the tightly interlinked coastal, estuarine, wetland and freshwater habitats at the interface of land and sea. The ability to utilise this diversity of connected habitats is integral to the life histories of a broad spectrum of organisms, with connectivity between habitats being crucial to important functions like nursery utilisation. Although connectivity is an obvious feature of the CEM, investigation of its implications has largely been restricted to the migration of organisms. However, connectivity has much broader conceptual relevance. It is a pervasive and multifaceted process affecting and enabling the lives of organisms over the full range of conceptual scales, with ecosystem components connected by a diversity of factors, including physical and biological translocation of nutrients, ontogenetic, life history, spawning and feeding migrations, food-web dynamics, predator–prey interactions, and many more. All of these play crucial roles in structuring biological populations, communities and assemblages, and in driving the biological processes that support them. Moreover, connectivity is a prominent and necessary component of ecological concepts, ranging from estuarine dependence and metapopulation dynamics to foraging arena theory. Considering connectivity as a multifaceted process leads to specific hypotheses about the functioning of the CEM and similar ecosystem complexes.

KEY WORDS: Connectivity · Coastal ecosystems · Estuarine · Wetland · Ecosystem interactions

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Cite this article as: Sheaves M (2009) Consequences of ecological connectivity: the coastal ecosystem mosaic. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 391:107-115.

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